Bondurant's second novel, The Wettest County in the World, was a New York Times Editor's Pick and one of the San Francisco Chronicle's Best 50 Books of the Year in 2009. He teaches literature at the University of Texas at Dallas. His newest book, The Night Swimmer, will be published Tuesday.
What is on your nightstand?
I just finished the advanced readers copy of The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson. It comes out at the same time my book does, and it's going to be huge. It will go to the stratosphere. This is one of those kinds of zeitgeist books. I think it will be the biggest book in 2012.
And what gives it such greatness?
It is a hero's journey about a man who grows up in an orphanage. It takes on the dark underbelly of North Korea. Johnson is a master stylist, a great prose stylist. He writes with real energy and speed, and his ability of expressing emotion is incredible line to line. I consider myself a serious researcher, but his research is superb. Every line is imbued with something that sounds completely and legitimately real.
Where did the idea for the main character, Elly, in your new book, The Night Swimmer, come from?
There are two basic things about it. It's about open-water swimming, and that is a hobby of mine. Nothing to the degree the character in the book does it, though, but I did Alcatraz last summer. And I find physical types, unusual physical types, interesting. I'm compelled by the way the physicality of someone can indicate something going on internally. When the character came to me, it was when I had the opportunity to visit Cape Clear. I found myself staring out at the sea. My favorite author, John Cheever, has a line in one of his stories, Goodbye, My Brother, about women walking out of the sea. It's an iconic Cheever line about gracefulness, and as I stared out at the ocean, I had a vision that the woman, my character, was coming towards me.
Piper Castillo can be reached at pcastillo@ tampabay.com or (727) 445-4163.